A Disney cruise ship tied up at Skagway's ore dock. (Emily Files)

A Disney cruise ship tied up at Skagway’s ore dock. (Emily Files)

Last week, consultants presented their short-term port improvement recommendation to Skagway leaders. The Moffatt & Nichol planners said if Skagway doesn’t want to miss out on bigger cruise ships, it should act soon on a $14.5 million ore dock modification. But the local committee working with the consultants wants more information.

Skagway has about $8 million in state grant funding for port improvements. It has larger cruise ships on the way in 2019. And it’s been in stalemate with the main leaseholder on the waterfront for a couple years.

Port consultant Moffatt & Nichol is getting paid about $200,000 to come up with a short-term recommendation for Skagway to use its grant funding and get the waterfront ready for bigger ships.

They say the best option considering time restraints is a $14.5 million floating addition onto the ore dock.

But at a port consultant steering committee meeting Monday, members wanted more.

“They’ve tried to keep it short and simple,” said John Tronrud. “And there’s a lot of unanswered things.”

“If we’re gonna spend $20 million, I want to make sure that when I’m dead people aren’t pissing on my grave because I made a really bad decision,” said Tim Bourcy.

One of Bourcy’s major concerns is that the ore dock modification hinges on permission from the leaseholder, White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad.

“There needs to be a ‘no path forward’ option if the municipality and White Pass can’t come to some understanding,” Bourcy said.

In Moffatt & Nichol’s presentation, the consultants seemed optimistic that White Pass would cooperate. After all, the railroad probably doesn’t want to miss out on cruise ship revenue either.

Bourcy said he also wants to see information about how the ore dock renovation will fit into the waterfront five or 10 years in the future.

“The things you don’t see in the plan is how this short-term plan fits into the long-term vision,” Bourcy said.

Port commissioner Steve Hites put it bluntly: the ore dock modification is probably the most realistic option considering current limitations. But it’s not the ideal option.

“It’s probably not the best choice,” Hites said. “So the MOS is going to spend almost $15 million to buy maybe just a few short years. If we do this, and unfortunately I don’t know any way around it, we need to be ready perhaps in four or five years to tear out that temporary float and spend perhaps another $20 or $40 million doing it right in the big, long-term picture.”

Bourcy said if Moffatt & Nichol can provide some details on how the ore dock renovation will be beneficial not just in the next few years, but over the next ten, the expense will be easier for people to accept.

“We as a governing body have to be able to justify this expenditure to the community,” Bourcy said.

The steering committee gave this and more feedback to Moffatt & Nichol.

The consultants plan to have a final short-term recommendation by July 1.